Emanuelle in America (1977)
By: Mark Nichols on September 11, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Blue Ungerground (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, French DD 2.0, Italian DD 2.0. 100 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Joe D'Amato
Starring: Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Roger Browne, Riccardo Salvino
Screenplay: Ottavio Alessi, Maria Pia Fusco, Piero Vivarelli
Music: Nico Fidenco
Country: Italy
AKA: Emanuelle Nera in America
Laura Gemser stars as Emanuelle, a fashion photographer and New York reporter who travels around the world on 'journalistic' assignments armed with a tiny camera pendant she wears around her neck that has an endless supply of film. She goes undercover as "Virgo' in millionaire Eric Van Darren's harem of women named after signs of the zodiac; makes love to a women in a sauna; enjoys a steamy underwater encounter with other zodiac women in the pool, and discovers a cache of illegal arms. We are then treated (as such!) to the first hardcore scene of the film: a woman masturbating a horse!

Then it is off to Italy to attend a function of the rich elite. A lucky senior Senator discovers the golden peanut in his desert and wins the naked girl in a cake, cueing everyone present to immediately discard their clothing and get involved in a group orgy! Hardcore scenes during this are a terrible (and very brief) fellatio scene and an extremely bored looking woman sitting on a chair masturbating. At this mansion Emanuelle discovers a room full of stolen artwork and is busted by the lord of the manor (the late Gabrielle Tinti - Laura Gemser's real life husband) who involves her in a threesome with his wife.

A subplot to the film involves Emanuelle and her boyfriend discussing how their busy lives leave little time for them to see each other (i.e. have sex). Long, unnecessary scenes show them sightseeing in Venice to give the film a more international flavour but could easily be edited out without affecting the storyline at all.

Then it is off to a tropical island where rich women choose muscle men of their liking and two more hardcore scenes: a 'Tarzan and Jane' scene in a hut then a lovely blonde woman who enjoys a 'chocolate and vanilla' threesome with a black and white guy. Both sex scenes culminate in cum shots.

Then she stumbles across a couple making out while watching a Super 8mm snuff film. This notorious footage is the major draw card for many who have heard about Emanuelle in America. Director D'Amato has created incredibly realistic snuff movie footage complete with faded, grainy colours and scratches. The misogynistic scenes show women terrorised by uniformed South American 'revolutionaries' with a blowtorch; branded with an iron; fucked from behind with a horst bit in the mouth; throttled while being gang raped, placed on stretching racks, and lowered onto a huge spiked phallic cone (among other things). One lady also has both her nipples cut off. (In the special features on the disc D'Amato explains how he and forty crew members were sued by this women later for 'mental anguish', had his passport confiscated for five years and couldn't leave Italy until he finally paid her off for the 'trauma' these scenes caused her).

Following this new lead Emanuelle goes to Washington and hooks up with a Senator who has a very stylish 70's bedroom/Super 8mm projection set up and he shows her more of the same snuff footage. ".. that footage, it was all so awful! But what a turn on!" Emanuelle says, "It's the raw horror of it that excites me". She is then drugged with powdered LSD and flown to where the movies are made. Sounds like a fun way to have an acid trip doesn't it?

On a technical and photographic level, this short film within a film is extremely realistic. As a lover of "snuff cinema verite" I am yet to see snuff footage from any film that matches this. The ending of the film is somewhat cheesy and anti-climactic, but after seeing such brilliant snuff footage who cares? All dialogue is not dubbed very well but lovers of Italian films will not be surprised by this and it won't detract from their viewing experience. The fashion is wonderful mid-seventies fare: flares, wide hats, knee high coloured socks and white suits. Sets and props also reflect 1970's trend art design of the time: a sliding door that is a painting of naked woman; a huge painting of a topless woman holding Hugh Hefner's head on a platter; sliced fruit that resembles female genitalia, and a Pop-art style Marlborough cigarette packet coffee table / drinks cabinet.

The music on the main menu is fantastic, classic 'orchestral porn' with sweeping wind instruments, keyboards and vocal back up which works well in Dolby Digital. I found myself leaving the main menu playing repeatedly just to hear it. The songs in the film by Nico Fidenco (the group credited as Armonium) are catchy and stand alone in their glam-rock style. If they were to release a soundtrack to this film it would stand out on its own.
Video
A decent transfer of the original negative has given a crisp and colourful image in 1:85:1 wide screen. Some scenes have been sourced from various prints to give us the complete version as it was meant to be seen. A few minor speckles are visible in some scenes but are not particularly discernable.
Audio
Only the main menu music and tracks by Armonium stand out on the customary Dolby Digital recording.
Extra Features
A candid thirteen minute interview with the late Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi 1936-1999) about what he considers to be the difference between eroticism and hardcore; an overview of his Emanuelle projects and his combination of the erotic, horror, cannibal and action genres to make a marketable film; directing Laura Gemser and his ongoing friendship with her after retiring from acting and a humourous anecdote about the actor who played 'Tarzan' in the film.

An audio interview with Laura Gemser (11 minutes) spoken in Italian with English subtitles that was originally recorded as an interview for a 1996 magazine with various photographs from her film and modelling work.

Also a poster and still gallery; "The Unofficial Emanuelle Phenomenon" (text with stills of various posters) and talent biographies.
The Verdict
Obviously this is not everyone's cup of tea, but the catchy music, great visual design/photography and high production values for such dubious content won me over. Nudity, hardcore sex and the most graphic faux snuff footage I have ever seen - I loved it!
Movie Score
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